The following 'History of the Fellows' is an excerpt of the paper presented by William Allen on April 15, 1996.
It all began quite innocuously with a phone call from Dick Eisenhart, Chairman of RIT's Board. Would I be free to have lunch with President Paul Miller and himself some day that week? With those two? You bet I would. Both of them were friends and people I admired for their abilities and their leadership in the Rochester community.
And so it was that on a cold winter day, February 15, 1977, I walked down State Street from the Kodak Office to join these two distinguished gentlemen at the Flagship Hotel for lunch. After the perusal of the menu, and customary chatter, they asked "was it true that I was planning to retire that year?" My answer was "Yes, at the end of the year." "Did I have any definite plans after that?" And then there were some unusual questions. "Had I ever thought of, or wished for some place to go during the day, away from home, a place in which to read papers and periodicals, a place with copiers, typewriters, dictating equipment, a desk, filing cabinets, and even a secretary; a place where one might visit and discuss subjects of interest with one's contemporary retirees?" In short, a substitute for an office atmosphere without the pressure and time constraints of an office, a place to get away from home during the day. What could be more ideal?
After these provocative questions, came still further ones. They wondered if the growing number [of contemporary retirees] might not be the forgotten segment of the population. They described it as a group having many abilities gained through maturity and experience who could still make great contributions to the community as well as give a balance to the concepts and philosophy of the overall population. What a waste it would be to the community to lose this wealth of experience, ability, and wisdom.
It was their thought that colleges and universities had an obligation to provide learning opportunities, and encouragement to pursue new and widening areas of knowledge. With such efforts the community would gain, the universities involved would benefit from increasing contacts with business people and professionals, and most certainly the individuals involved would continue to grow rather than run the risk of becoming moribund.
Paul said that there seemed to be a small number of universities starting to investigate this area of education and that the time was ripe for RIT to do so. He named a few examples and described the differing approaches being taken by leaders in this area of education.
All this sounded like it would be an exciting subject. But the best way yet to come! They wondered if I would be interested in their ideas; whether I would be free to delve into the matter; and if so, when.
To me it sounded like a wonderful opportunity. I of course was enchanted at the idea of having this challenge to organize and then establish such an organization. To have the opportunity of working with RIT and its faculty and students; and to have an opportunity that could be demanding, but not as restricted and pressured as to time, place, or intensity would be wonderful. Add to that the dream of having a place to meet, study, and have all the helpful facilities of an office to which we had become accustomed over the years, seemed like perfection.
Evidence of our enthusiasm is shown by the speed with which we began to work. Shortly thereafter Paul Miller suggested that we should be called the Institute of Fellows, with the members given the title of Fellows. He told us that for a thousand years or so the term Fellow has in the world of higher education designated an expert, a scholar with discipline, who can study on his own without instruction; that well known institutions such as the Carnegie Foundation have referred to their members as Fellows. The name "RIT Fellows" was approved by us right then and there! And just one week later on Feb. 22 a paper on "The Requirements for RIT Fellows" was circulated.
During the ensuing months drafts of the proposed organization, a plan of action, and a presentation folder for use in recruiting members were written and discussed. Armed with these, Paul Miller asked me to present our proposal at a meeting of the Deans of the RIT Colleges. This was done Sept. 9, 1977. Suffice it to say that the Deans were interested, in the concept. Among other matters, they all questioned where the Institute would be positioned in the RIT organization. It was pleasing to see that almost all of them seemed to think of the Institute as fitting into their college. After some discussion, they asked that I pull together a more definite proposal and plan of action.
At about this same time Paul suggested Loma Allen, Special Assistant to the President, could be particularly helpful in studying what other universities were doing in this field. And he was right! By the end of December '77 she had located and received descriptive folders from four universities, with many more coming during the following months from such Universities as Duke, Bryne Mawr, Pace College, U.C.L.A., Harvard, Syracuse, Case Western Reserve, Univ. of Maryland, and the Association of American Colleges. She was able to glean helpful data on the demographics of the participants, types of organization, their methods of approach towards teaching, selection of members, activities fees, etc. Of particular interest was Loma's research that uncovered widely varying methods of study and activity i.e. Self Study with faculty assistance when needed; courses given by members to members; opening of college classes without credit to members; lecture series for members etc.
Plans were sufficiently developed by November 4, 1977 to warrant another meeting of the College Deans. Suggestions made included: a two to three year term of tenure for each Fellow; the need to have a wide variety of interests among the Fellows so as to capture and use the abilities of each and all of the College faculties; the wish that the members could bring added expertise to RIT's various programs. They discussed the benefits the program could bring to the community, the individuals involved, and all the various Colleges. They wanted to know what the make-up of the Steering Committee would be; how the members would be chosen; where it would be located, both physically and organizationally; who would approve its goals; and should it be under a particular college, or the Provost or President? Above all they wanted to be sure it was "distinguished by being a working and project-oriented group, not part-time volunteer or social organization." They suggested that other institutions be contacted. Bill Allen was then asked to (1) rewrite the proposal, (2) study other models, (3) make suggestions for membership, and (4) explore a permanent RIT home site. After which the meeting was adjourned.
On March 8, 1978 it all began! A meeting of the Steering Committee was held in Dr. Ed Johnson's Office. Final approval was given to the by-laws (Objectives, Requirements for Fellows, and Organization.) Discussions were held as to where resources at RIT should be located, some time was devoted to discussing the qualifications for Fellows, the need for diversity among them in both professions, interests, and business background and the criteria for the selection of projects. A decision was made that meetings should be held on a monthly basis and scheduled for the second Monday of each month. Although I cannot find minutes of a few of the meetings, a perusal of my pocket date books indicates that, with the exception of summertime, the Fellows have met every single month from that March date in 1978 until today (with one exception.)
The May meeting and those thereafter gradually and unknowingly changed from that of a Steering Committee to a Fellows meeting. The first portion was involved with the needs of the organization, and steering committee problems, after which some or all of the Fellows would discuss their progress on their project during the month. A discussion, suggestions and criticism would follow. Bill Vick and Tom Miller joined our group, bringing the number of Fellows to seven at the end of our first school year, 1977-78.
At the Oct 16, 1978 meeting Dean Johnson reported that new office space for us was now close to completion; that the College of Business was purchasing office equipment for it and that dictating equipment was available for loan to Fellows upon request. He and Bill Allen would be working on appeals to Foundations for grants to cover these expenses. By the December meeting we learned that Room 3157 in the Administration Building was definitely ours to use! Two additional members were greeted, Jerold Foland and Wayne McKusick. This brought our group to nine. We decided that we should move slowly, henceforward until our routines, programs, office space etc. were more firmly established.
The January '79 meeting tells us that not only was the new office space ready, and two desks there, but that Ty Cobb was already using it. He reported that working on campus had several advantages including the help that he could get from students and secretaries as well as an increasing feeling of closeness to RIT. Dean Johnson followed up on Tyler Cobb's remarks at our Feb. meeting reporting that he was seeking means of providing closer relationships between the Fellows, students, and faculty. He was also adding another faculty member, this time from another College, to broaden the "all University aspect of RIT's interest in the Fellows", Dr. Fred Gardner of the College of Continuing Education. A discussion of the Steering Committee activities led to the decision to separate it's meetings from that of the Fellows. It's meetings would henceforward be held prior to the Fellows luncheon meetings.
The first quarter of 1980 was not a period of active growth. Our faculty Advisor was a temporary appointment prior to his retirement. Consequently he was not in a position to bring aggressive support to the Fellows. The room assigned for our use had been taken over by a group of students during our summer time absence. Two of our Fellows felt the project idea was not for them and resigned. And one meeting in Feb. was cancelled for lack of attendance. We thereafter came to the conclusion that our energies should be focused on recruiting Fellows rather than publicity. This was probably the low point in the history of the Fellows. However with the return of our Florida "snowbirds", our March, April, and May meetings had full attendance. Professors Holley Spencer and Frank Holley, were particularly helpful in this period of meeting format experimentation.
The school year '80-'81 saw an upsurge in growth and activity commencing from the top. The Fellows asked for a review of the direction and future of their group. With Dean Gibson's retirement, President Rose asked that Dean McCanna of the College of Business take over as our Advisor. Even more important for us our friend and originator, Paul Miller who had returned to the RIT campus during 1980, seemed as ready as ever to help us. Shortly thereafter in a discussion with President Rose, Paul reaffirmed that "whatever President Rose decided to do with the Institute of Fellows was entirely up to him." Rose's answer was that it was an important element of RIT and should be supported with money as well as encouragement from the top. Furthermore Pres. Ross and Dean McCanna, to our great pleasure, asked Paul Miller if he would become our campus councillor. Furthermore, Dr. Rose honored the Fellows by stating that henceforward the President and trustees would be responsible for sponsorship of the Fellows and that future appointments would be by letter from the President to each notifying them of their election as a Fellow.
Almost immediately, in April 1981 he interviewed individually every single member of the Fellows and its faculty members. The result of this intensive study was a series of recommendations all of which he thought could be accomplished within the budget granted by Rose. These recommendations included: (1)The publication of a descriptive brochure as recommended earlier in the program; (2) the formation of an executive committee in place of the steering committee; (3) a change in location of the luncheon meetings to a better one, and that wine be offered at lunch; (4) the introduction of an annual Symposium, inviting appropriate segments of the greater Rochester community, and seeking funds from interested companies to pay for them; (5) institutionalize the Fellows, that is, establish them as an independent segment of RIT under its administration with its campus councillor appointed by the President. In summary, Paul stressed the belief that the function of the Fellows was to be part of a University with appropriate interest in study, education, the community and all its aspects. "The job of the Fellows is not essentially to do things for RIT. There are other segments such as the Women's Council, the Nathanial Rochester Society etc. to do this". "The Fellows can help retirees find a whole new area of interest and possibly even a new career. Hopefully the original style of meeting with discussion of members projects can provide a synergistic effect leading to these interests with Symposiums as an incentive."
The year 1984-1985 saw our luncheon meetings regularly taking place in a room in the Student Union Bldg., though we did have one or two meetings in the College of Continuing Education at 50 Main St. In what was becoming an annual custom, the year closed with another symposium, this one given by William Allen "Economics in Elementary Schools - A Crucial Gap."
We enjoyed Pete Prozeller as Chairman in 1985-86. It was a year in which our rolls listed 22 Fellows and seven faculty members, as well as a year that saw such diverse projects as one on Medicine - Dr. Roger Allison's "An Approach to the Philosophy of Medicine", and Jerry Foland's "George Stubbs, an 18th Century Painter." It is interesting to note that Jerry attributed some of the ideas for his project to the "synergistic effect" coming from discussion of a variety of papers, an effect that had been emphasized in our earlier years. Jerry said Bill Morris's earlier paper had referred to a book on "Great Racehorses in ART" and that, in turn, stimulated Jerry to write about George Stubbs.
Joe Quickel became our Chairman for 1987-88 with Mark Blazer continuing as campus councilor. In October '87 I find the first reference to "Atheneum." A decision was made to increase the maximum number of active Fellows to 24. At the same time the title "Life Members" for those who had finished their projects, and who might wish to continue attending meetings, or better yet, follow Paul Miller's recommendation to pursue further studies. The importance of continuing to interest new prospective members and so expand our influence within the community was stressed by the Steering Committee. It is interesting to note that three projects this year had to do with education. Irene Gossin, Asst. Majority Leader of the County Legislature gave one on "our Environment and Historical Heritage"; Mary Alice Kendall, Board of Regents member, presented "Continuing Education for the Professional"; Peter Prozeller gave one on "Developing Role Models for Local Industry to Support RIT." Mark Hargrave gave the 1988 Symposium "Needs of Hard of Hearing Employees."
Joe Quickel was our Chairman for a second term in 1988-1989 with Mark Blazer and Claire Wolcott continuing as campus councilor and Secretary respectively. There were thirteen active Fellows and six faculty appointments. An honorary or Life Membership title was established for those who had completed their projects. Fifteen were so named! Loma Allen and Paul Miller led a discussion concerning the progress and future of the Fellows. There was no Symposium in 1989.
We sought Paul Miller's goal of encouraging additional study, mental activity, and growth among professionals after retirement. It should be for both their own enjoyment and the benefit of the community. Just a mere review of the papers, projects, and symposiums shows a rather amazing breadth of subjects and results. We had forseen real benefit in having discussions of individuals papers during their conception and the synergistic benefits of such discussions on several papers with their different approaches and subjects. This may well be impossible with such a large group as it now is and the value of a larger group with greater diversity may outweigh the synergistic value.
We had expressed a desire for town and gown to work more closely together, to know each other better, and to have greater understanding and respect. Through this paper we have seen numerous examples of joint endeavors that were most beneficial for all concerned.
In summary, we have come a long way from that beginning. The number of papers are prodigious in number with some having had influence in corporations around the world, in elementary schools throughout New York State. There have been several in the field of medicine, politics, education, astronomy etc. etc. We have become a fairly close knit group that came from varied corporate and professional lives; proud of our accomplishments and proud of being Fellows. We couldn't have done all this without the superb backing of RIT - its Presidents, Miller, Rose and Simone; their top assistants, many Deans, a couple of Provosts, and Faculty too numerous to mention. To all of these, and to each other, us Fellows, we must give thanks.
How better can I end this History of the Fellows than by quoting from President Simone's Jan. 13, 1993 paper, "I believe the Institute of Fellows concept a remarkable one. It is a novel opportunity for RIT to draw on the rich resources of the community by taking into its fold distinguished and accomplished individuals who will, because of retirement, now have time to pursue a project of interest to them and of benefit to RIT and the community as a whole. People of this caliber, appropriately linked to various sectors of RIT, can only improve the ability of RIT to carry forward its emerging strategic plan and meet its needs."